As Michigan Senate Democrats get ready to join the Michigan House of Representatives in a joint session for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s 2024 State of the State address on Wednesday, Jan. 24, we’re looking forward to building upon the progress accomplished by the Democratic Majority in 2023. Our first Democratic trifecta in four decades delivered on both longstanding priorities and new, and pressing needs, putting politics aside and addressing what Michiganders really want. 

From the beginning of our first legislative year in the majority, Michigan Senate Democrats swiftly took action on the most critical issues facing the residents of Michigan. We stood firm in safeguarding the rights of Michiganders, invested in the people of Michigan, and championed the protection of our state’s environment, water and natural resources. 

While we look forward to continuing working together with the House and Gov. Whitmer in 2024 to craft effective, transparent and meaningful legislation, here’s a glimpse of just some of the significant legislative milestones Senate Democrats passed this year to bring about real change for the people of Michigan. 

Safeguarding the Rights of All Michiganders 

On the left, Sen. Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield) — the first openly LGBTQ+ person elected to the Michigan Senate — celebrates the expansion of the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act after years of advocating for its passage. On the right, Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) and Sen. Sarah Anthony (D-Lansing) join Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in the Senate Chamber as the final piece of the Reproductive Health Act is signed into law.

Michigan is a state where everyone should be able to live without fear of discrimination and have ample opportunities to learn, work, and build a future grounded in fairness, equality and equity. The fear of not being paid fairly, the worry of not being able to afford basic necessities, the concern of being voiceless in our democracy, or the anxiety over losing control of one’s own body — these are concerns that no one should have. 

Our new Majority for the People aimed to create a Michigan where everyone feels welcome to be their authentic selves. We expanded the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. These protections, which take effect in early 2024, will protect Michiganders in employment, housing, education and access to public accommodations. 

Senate Democrats not only emphasized the protection of civil rights but also championed the restoration of workers’ rights. We passed legislation that reinstates Michigan workers’ long-held freedom to speak up together with one voice in the workplace, promoting better working conditions, higher wages, and safer workplaces — a move toward putting democracy back in the workplace. 

To further support Michigan workers, the Democratic Majority also passed legislation restoring prevailing wage on all state projects, ensuring good-paying jobs and a decent standard of living for hard-working Michiganders. This move also puts more money in people’s pockets and ensures our state has a well-trained, skilled workforce to build safe, reliable infrastructure. 

For Democrats, listening to the people of Michigan is a priority. In response to the record number of Michiganders who voted in favor of Proposal 3 and enshrining reproductive freedom in the state constitution, the Democratic Majority passed legislation to repeal the archaic 1931 abortion ban, ensuring that Michiganders can make their own decisions about their own bodies and lives. 

In the 2022 election, Michigan voters also emphasized the importance of voting by supporting Proposal 2, a constitutional amendment to expand voting rights. Senate Democrats, having secured the majority for the first time in 40 years, promptly turned this mandate into law. This effort increased access to the ballot box and implemented safeguards to ensure fair, safe, and secure Michigan elections.

Investing in the People of Michigan 

Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) joins Senate Democrats and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to announce the Lowering MI Costs plan to help provide historic tax relief to seniors and working families across Michigan.

The strength of Michigan lies in its people; recognizing this, the Democratic Majority prioritized historic investments for the residents of the state. From passing a transformative and more equitable state budget to directing millions of dollars into communities and putting money directly back into Michiganders’ pockets, Senate Democrats made much-needed investments in Michigan’s people.

In a bid to alleviate financial burdens on Michiganders, the Majority for the People championed the Lowering MI Costs Plan — the most extensive tax relief initiative our state has witnessed in decades. This comprehensive plan overhauls the inequitable retirement tax, expands the Working Families Tax Credit (WFTC), and makes substantial investments in housing and community development.

Acknowledging the struggles faced by too many Michigan families, Senate Democrats took a proactive stance in providing crucial tax relief through the expanded Working Families Tax Credit. Benefitting 700,000 Michiganders struggling to afford basic necessities, the WFTC will help Michigan families save an average of $3,150 annually. 

For over a decade, Michigan Democrats have been working to eliminate the unfair and unwanted retirement tax. Now, through the Lowering MI Costs Plan, that goal is a reality. The phased elimination of the tax on retirees over four years will return an average of $1,000 to the pockets of 500,000 households. This targeted relief restores the broken promise of a safe, secure and happy retirement for folks across Michigan. 

The Lowering MI Costs Plan also invests $50 million of surplus tax revenue in the state’s Housing and Community Development Fund. This substantial investment prioritizes projects for safe, affordable housing for veterans, seniors, people with disabilities and working families. Additionally, the plan allocates $50 million for Revitalization and Placemaking (RAP) grants, transforming underutilized spaces into areas for community enjoyment, including affordable housing, parks, outdoor dining spaces and more. 

Senate Democrats spent time meeting with constituents, local leaders, first responders, and other stakeholders to discuss funding secured in the Fiscal Year 2024 Budget for our communities. 

Additionally, Senate Democrats made historic increases in funding for schools, infrastructure, housing and workforce development all while increasing transparency and remaining fiscally responsible. Totaling $81.7 billion, the 2024 state budget is full of transformative, innovative and equitable investments that will improve the lives of Michiganders. Some notable highlights from the Democratic Majority’s “Budget for the People” include:   

  • Providing a 5% increase in per-pupil funding for a total of $9,608 per pupil — the highest level in history — to support our kids as the future of our state. 
  • Making 5,600 more free Pre-K slots available, saving families $10,000 a year and providing more Michigan children the opportunity to develop social and academic skills. 
  • Investing $416 million to fund the repair of local roads and $80 million to replace or rehabilitate crumbling bridges. 
  • Supporting small businesses, entrepreneurs and farmers, and encouraging greater diversity and representation in all of our state’s important industries. 
  • Doubling support to conservation districts to protect and improve our air, land and water. 
  • Expanding the eligibility age for Michigan Reconnect, making a tuition-free associate degree or skills training available to 350,000 more Michiganders. 
  • Allocating $400 million to provide safety professionals and first responders with the resources they need to keep our families and communities safe. 
  • Implementing gun violence prevention policies, and funding programs and services to tackle root causes of crime and reduce recidivism.   

Protecting Michigan’s Environment, Water and Natural Resources 

On the left, Sen. Sue Shink (Northfield Twp.) joins clean water advocates in Ann Arbor for a river clean up and to announce the $50,000 secured for Huron River water trail improvements. On the right, Sen. Sam Singh (D-East Lansing) joins Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and supporters to celebrate the signing of the Clean Energy Future package in Detroit.

Protecting and investing in Michigan’s environment is just as important as investing in its people. That is why the Democratic Majority took bold action to combat the climate crisis and passed important legislation to protect Michigan’s natural and vital landscapes, Great Lakes and waterways, and natural resources.

Michigan Democrats secured $600 million for statewide water infrastructure projects, replacing lead service lines, rebuilding sewers and more. Within the $600 million, $2 million has been earmarked to construct a wastewater treatment plant on Harsens Island in St. Clair County, protecting Michigan’s waterways and improving residents’ quality of life.

In addition to allocating hundreds of millions of dollars to improve water quality, Senate Democrats also passed “Filter First” legislation to protect children from lead in drinking water at schools and childcare centers. Michigan childcare centers and schools are now required to adopt a Drinking Water Management Plan, install filtered bottle-filling stations or faucets designated for drinking water and regularly test the filtered water to ensure proper functioning of the installed filters.

Legislative Democrats also recently secured funding to implement Filter First and provide water filters to schools across Michigan, ensuring every student and educator can fill their water bottle or go to the water fountain knowing it is safe. Additionally, the supplemental leverages federal grant money to address issues facing the Great Lakes, such as polluted stormwater runoff, PFAS, and other contaminants.

To better equip our state with the ability to protect and preserve its environment, the Majority for the People repealed the 2018 law that restricted Michigan officials from implementing environmental and public health safeguards beyond federal standards. The repeal of this harmful law empowers Michigan to protect its natural resources and environment more effectively.

Senate Democrats also worked tirelessly all year to pass the historic Clean Energy Future plan. This legislation introduces ambitious but obtainable clean energy standards, enhances energy efficiency goals, establishes a Community and Worker Economic Transition Office, and mandates considerations for affordability and environmental impacts. It also codifies a program for farmers to lease land for solar operations. Additional complementary legislation, the Clean Energy Future and Jobs Act, streamlines approval for large-scale renewable projects, safeguards personal property rights, and ensures public input and local oversight. 

Being a Majority for the People 

On the left, Sen. Kristen McDonald Rivet (D-Bay City) announces introduction of legislation to establish a Prescription Drug Advisory Board in Michigan. On the right, Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak) joins gun violence survivors and advocates for the signing of commonsense gun safety legislation.

In October, Senate Democrats passed legislation to create an independent Prescription Drug Affordability Board (PDAB) to lower drug costs. The board, with public input and industry expert consultation, will review and assess prescription drug expenses, ensuring transparency. PDAB members will focus on drugs posing the greatest affordability challenges and will have the authority to set upper payment limits on the most costly prescriptions.

After persistent calls to close dangerous loopholes in state gun laws, Michigan Democratic lawmakers got to work to pass a slate of widely embraced gun safety measures. Included in the historic package of commonsense gun safety bills is legislation to strengthen background checks, require the secure storage of firearms where children are present, and allow for the temporary removal of firearms from people who pose a significant risk to themselves or others.

After having time to evaluate the effect— and some unintended consequences — of the 2019 auto insurance overhaul, Senate Democrats worked to secure access to and improve the affordability of the specialized care survivors of auto accidents need, provide every Michigan driver with access to appropriate care if it’s ever needed, and more.

Staying committed to enhancing government transparency and formalizing Proposal 1 of 2022 — a choice endorsed by 2.8 million Michigan voters — the Senate Majority passed legislation that requires financial disclosure of assets and income above certain thresholds from elected officials and candidates for public office. 

Looking Ahead to 2024 and Beyond 

As the Majority for the People continues its work in 2024, Senate Democrats are staying true to our focus on the everyday concerns of Michigan residents — committed to re-envisioning economic development, improving public transit, providing training and support to Michigan’s workforce, making continued investments in education, and much more!

As Michigan Democrats begin to navigate the legislative year ahead, our commitment to practical and community-oriented solutions and the well-being of Michigan residents remains at the forefront of our priorities.